Fantasy Basketball Offseason Review: Utah Jazz

By: Nick Divago

Bye weeks and injuries have just started in fantasy football, and you need to focus on piecing together your lineup, so let’s talk basketball.

A number of big names moved this offseason, and it has impacted players all across the board. Over the next few weeks, we are going to examine the 10 teams that will look the most different this seasons, and how those teams’ changes will affect players you might draft.

I am going to start with a good, young team that you may not think of as making big changes this past off-season, but that will have a different look and feel, the Utah Jazz.

Significant additions:

G George Hill, G/F Joe Johnson, F Boris Diaw

Utah’s three additions are not in the same category as Ibaka, Howard, and Wade, much less Durant, but Utah has a lot of good players, and they have a lot of players coming back from injuries. This is an interesting team.  Put simply, I think the additions help Utah’s big men and hurt its guards. Diaw will not take minutes from either Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert, but I do think Utah will now split the two of them more frequently. That will help both players.

Even more helpful will be the three-point shooting that Hill, Johnson, and Diaw provide.  Utah needs the extra shooting. Last season, Utah’s two best shooters were Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood. I know, Hayward is white and reminds you of Chris Mullin (if you are old like me) or Kyle Korver, but he is actually not an elite shooter. Last season he took five threes per game, the most he has ever taken, and made 35%, which is about his average. Hood was actually a bit better, taking almost six per game and making 36%.  Perhaps more importantly, neither player is really a stand and shoot guy. They like the ball in their hands.  Hill and Johnson are both better at spacing the floor for others. Hill will be particularly helpful, because he is replacing Shelvin Mack and Trey Burke, who scared nobody. Gobert and Favors will have more room to operate, and I think it will help both of them.

Extra spacing should help Hood, too, and he is a good young player with room to improve.  Utah is now stacked at guard, however, and it has added or returned some playmakers.  Hood was at his best when he and Hayward were Utah’s only playmakers. That is unlikely to happen this year. Hill is a low-usage point guard, but he will run the offense at least some of the time. Both Johnson and Diaw will also likely handle some of the playmaking.  Hood might adjust to those three without hurting his counting stats, and he might even improve his shooting percentage in the process, but I am also concerned about Hood’s minutes. Utah is bringing both Alec Burks and Dante Exum back from injuries, and that will create a logjam at guard.  Hood averaged more than thirty-two minutes per game last season. Barring a trade or injuries, I am not sure he gets there this season. Hood has a lot of upside, but he might not reach it until Utah gets clarity at scoring guard.

Gordon Hayward also has some risk this year, for the same reasons as Hood. But I am less concerned.  First, Hayward is a small forward and Utah’s best player. Adding a guard and having two return from injury will not affect him like it might Hood; he will get his minutes. Second, Hayward has now put together two straight season with almost identical numbers, despite lots of roster changes around him. His role is safe and he is in his prime. Expect him to be much the same player he has been for the last two years.

Of the incoming players, only Hill is likely to have fantasy value. Hill has a well-rounded game and can help you with threes, but I am concerned about his minutes falling from last season’s 34 per game, especially if Dante Exum comes on in the second half of the season. Joe Johnson was also decent last year, but he looks like a backup in Utah. I wouldn’t draft him.

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